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Source:
Pioneer Period and Pioneer People of Fairfield Co., Ohio.
by C. M. L. Wiseman
Publ. F. J. Heer Printing Co., Columbus, O.  1901

Transcribed by Sharon Wick

EARLY SPORTS
AND AMUSEMENTS OF THE PIONEERS OF FAIRFIELD COUNTY.
pg. 171 - 175

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     NOTWITHSTANDING the many and trying privations of the pioneers, they were not destitute of amusements - not the cultured lecture or refined opera, but healthful and satisfying.  It is doubtful if there is any community a happier people than were the first settlers of this country.
     Men's amusements were rude and mostly in the open air.  Neighbors were brought closer together, communities mingled and tehre was a hearty interchange of hospitality.
     Hunting with the rifle was indulged in by all classes, both to obtain game for food and for amusement.  There were many famous hunters and a poor shot was the excepton.  Thomas Cherry killed fifty deer in one winter, one bear and other game.
     William Murphey, in his early years, killed 63 wolves and a panther.  He also killed with his rifle, on his dogs, raccoons, foxes and wild cats to the number of 600.  For many years he was a dealer in peltries.
     Another method of amusement, common to every neighborhood, was the shooting match, or target shooting.  A prize or prizes were offered for the best shot, or one set of half a dozen or more would shoot against the same number for the prize, which was a deer, steer, or more frequently turkeys.  The contest

Page 171 -
would last, sometimes, an entire day, and always half a day.  Christmas was always a favorite day for a shooting match, and sometimes on election day.  The contest was one of great interest for the best off-hand shots and all the neighborhood would be on hand.  This amusement continued up to within the memory of men now living.  The expert squirrel hunters loved the match.  The amusement which laid in the shade all other forms was the fox hunt.  The hunters, mounted on trained horses, following a pack of fifteen or twenty hounds, in full cry, over hill and dale, regardless of fences or other obstructions, the fox occasionally in sight, the hounds always, and their music reverberating from hill to hill.  Abraham Applegate and Major Cox used to say that the most glorious music in the world was made by a pack of fox hounds, of a frosty morning in October, in full cry.  Applegate was so much of an enthusiast upon this subject that he was anxious to visit England for the sole purpose of seeing and hearing a pack of thoroughly trained hounds in an open country, in full cry.  He knew the voices of his dogs, and could tell whether old Bet or Spot was in the lead.  Two of the most noted fox hunters of the early period were William Murphey, then of Walnut township, and Samuel Graybill of Greenfield.  Both were grand old hunters and grand old men.  Both could set a horse when 80 years of age with the best of them, and remain in the saddle to the end of the chase.  Mr. William Murphey kept a kennel of hounds as late as to be within the memory of the writer.  They were somewhat troublesome and expensive.  Their principal food was mush.  Trouble and expense was not counted by such sportsmen
as William Murphey.  Of later years Major Cox,

Page 173 -
Abraham V. Applegate and Dr. A. Davidson were noted fox hunters and often followed the hounds.  A pack of hounds, in full cry, would stir the blood of Dr. Davidson.George Fetters is about the only lover of this fine sport left.  He keeps a hound or two to remind him of the days that are gone.
     The writer remembers what was called a circle hunt in the year 1848 in Pleasant township.  The lines of men were about four miles square, all in command of Colonel Thomas Duncan.  At the sound of his horn the lines moved to the center and met near C. Rugh's.  Three foxes were gathered in, one of which got away.  It was a jolly day, enjoyed by hundreds of excited people.  Labor was turned into amusement.  Log rollings, house and barn raisings and corn huskings, even the wheat harvest; all contributed to the general fund of amusement.  Strong men tested the strength of each other and sometimes their tempers.
     Wheat was cut with the sickle or hook, as the cradle and machinery were then unknown.
     A gang of men, 10 or 15, went into the field with their hooks, cut through a land about three feet wide and bound the sheaves on the way back.  Fifteen men would cut about what is now done with a binder in one day.  The owner of the field generally tried to get the best reaper to lead the field, as it was called, and sometimes he was paid extra.  But woe to the leader if it were found out his hide would be the forfeit, as they called it.  Taking his hide meant laying him in the shade.
     Isaac Wilson, late of Greenfield, but in early life, of Richland township, was a great leader, one of the best men with a sickle in those days.  He was best in

Page 174 -
many things.  He was a mighty man, and he who insulted him did it at his peril.
     Horse racing in the early days was very popular, though it was not introduced to any extent until thoroughbred and blooded horses came to the state.
     Each neighborhood had scrub horses to run from 100 to 300 yards.  As early as the thirties, Chancy Rickets of Pickerington, then Jacksonville, owned some good horses and that point was somewhat famed for this amusement.
     About 1838, Benjamin Yontz came out to this county from Maryland and brought with him some well bred horses, Cupbearer and others.  He had a fine race track built just south of New Salem and kept it up for some years.
     The pioneers were a hardy race and it is safe to conclude that the outdoor work and outdoor sports had much to do with it.
     The people of Europe, especially of the continent have plenty of outdoor amusements, and this may be one reason for their content and apparent happiness under conditions to which Americans would not submit.
     The writer is old enough to remember one old-fashioned fox hunt and confesses to a weakness for the music and excitement of the chase.  A fox at full speed in the  distance, his long brush in line with his back and nose, fifteen or twenty hounds, many of them handsome, stretched out for two hundred yards, running at full speed, their noses to the ground, all in full cry, but each with a different note.  Many men well mounted, their horses going at full speed, and the best trained clearing fences, jumping ditches, the voices of the riders, shouting and calling out names

Page 175 -
of favorite dogs.  I hear old Spot, she's in the lead now, old Bet leads the pack and so on, for they all known their dogs.  Sometimes the riders were left far behind, but the music and the cry of the leader could be heard afar off.
     Who would not have enjoyed such a scene with old Billy Murphy as leader?  And his smile of Triumph when, in at the death he found that his favorite dog had captured the prize.
     Major Cox used to say that the man who did not love the music of the hounds had no music in his soul.

 

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